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11 thousand visitors participated in the science festival at the Weizmann Institute

Moshe Rashpon, founder of the Science Festival and director of the Science Garden, says that the scientists should excite the youth. "Students who encounter science for the first time at school do not feel that it is fun"

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Nine years ago, the science festival was inaugurated for the first time and has been held every Passover holiday since then. Prof. Moshe Rashpon, a physicist who did his doctorate at the institute and continued to work and research at it to this day, is the founder of many youth activities within the Weizmann Institute. "Back in the XNUMXs I assisted Amos de Shalit in educational activities and in the XNUMXs I established the unit for youth activities, later we established the Science Garden which is the first open science museum in the world, the Ecosphere which won international praise and recognition as well as the current festival that started nine years ago.

What was the display that attracted the most audience?
"If there is one thing that is attractive in terms of its prominence at height - it was the flying egg competition - the participants were asked to throw eggs from the tower of the Toffler particle accelerator, people built shock absorbers and only the eggs that reached Israel intact participated in the competition and the one that arrives at the highest speed is the winner. Because if you build a parachute, the egg will arrive intact, but it will land very slowly. We mean that it will fall almost at the speed of free fall and not break. The participants surprise us with their ingenuity, in a very simple way to succeed in doing this. And from the height of the tower it is very surprising that eggs arrive whole.
Beyond this competition, it is possible to mention the display of the MZP - the police forensics laboratory that showed the work of excellent scientists in the police service. The IDF also joined in this year through displays from the ICT Division. An interesting performance by Chen Zimbalista, who also had a part in the organization of the festival from its early days - he played a huge stone xylophone that was inspired by him - the cellophon. In general, the cymbalista's part is noteworthy. At every festival he plays scientific instruments. An ice cream making workshop where you also get explanations about the science of low temperatures, a huge water rocket, in fact anything can be made into a scientific exhibit.

How was the festival born?
"About ten years ago I was invited to the Edinburgh Festival to present physics in an entertaining way. So the idea came to me why not do a similar festival in Israel. It took us about a year and we started. By the way, to this day I give the same lecture 'Physics as fun' as part of the festival and also travel with it around the world. The topic is entertaining and I believe it attracts young people to science and is also relevant. This is also the root of the festival itself. Students who encounter science for the first time at school do not get this feeling. And we at the Weizmann Institute are very interested in attracting people to science. Many of the scientists at the institute also participate and appear whether it's at the festival or all the other activities. A large number of scientists who do direct actions with youth all year round and not only as part of the festival."

"Our goal is for young people to see a different face, a different shape, a different character, more attractive, and not only them - adults should also feel that the Weizmann Institute is an open place, that wants to open its doors. Even specifically science enthusiasts who love science very much have elements within the festival that appeal to them - especially afternoon activities at the Davidson Institute, short scientific lectures and demonstrations. It is very difficult to see everything and if you want to be in all the activities it takes more than a week."
At night there were symposia intended for both scientists and science enthusiasts. This year one of the symposia dealt with the possibility of finding intelligent life outside the Earth and how astronomers try to search and find it. And the second dealt with the development of medicine that is personally adapted to each patient, in which scientists brought the innovations in the field of genetics and explained how it would affect each and every person. In the two leading scientists in these areas - the Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University, Bar Ilan and the Ichilov Hospital. In short, we cover the whole spectrum from 3 years old to adults, from people who are interested in science to full-fledged scientists.

Are there any lessons you've learned to improve next time?"Everything always needs to be improved, first of all so that those who come every year will also see new things, and we are also slowly turning to an older audience, some children are growing up with us. As for the signage - since it is a large area, we believe that it should be improved so that people can make the most of the hours they are here.

Surely you received comments about the prices, like we journalists did?

As for the prices - we are trying to find more supporters so that we can lower the prices. I am aware that for a large family the prices are already starting to be burdensome but we have no choice. It is worth noting that most of the expenses - about two thirds - are covered by the Weizmann Institute and a number of supporters such as the Municipality of Rehovot, and recently also the Ministry of Science. If we find more supporters, it will be possible to lower the price so that more people can come. As for the weather, we had the worst two days possible. We distributed water and turned on foggers - machines that spray water in several places to cool the air.
A few words about the science garden that you manage and which is at the heart of the festival?
The science garden operates all year round, not only during the festival. It is the only science museum in the world that is entirely under the dome of the sky. A year after we opened, in 1999, we received the innovation award in the field of scientific museology from the International Organization of Science Museums. Delegations are constantly coming to us - for example, next week a delegation of twenty people is coming from Australia and later a delegation from Boston. Everyone wants to set up science parks. We have shown that it is possible to build a good museum outdoors and it also has great specific advantages because it is possible to illustrate natural phenomena in the most natural way. All the time, children from all over the country are staying there, most of them classes of school students, but on holidays we are full of families who don't miss a holiday to celebrate with us. In fact, anything can be used to build a scientific exhibit. It is important that young people or children experience it before they go higher and deeper in a good scientific basis that find the examples in everyday life. You shouldn't jump into modern physics, but those things that change less, such as centrifugal forces, the computed Doppler effect in the wave pool, and more.

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